According to a new study a novel gene therapy technique is safe and may be effective at staving off the worsening symptoms of Parkinson's disease.
Parkinson's is a movement disorder caused by a progressive depletion of the brain chemical dopamine in the area of the brain which controls movement.
The patients in the study were in the advanced stages of the illness and were no longer responding to medicines when they signed up for the experimental therapy.
The study involved a woman and 11 men who received a surgical infusion of fluid containing a viral vector and genes for a protein called GAD (glutamic acid decarboxylase) which is an enzyme critical in controlling a neurotransmitter called GABA.
In Parkinson's, GABA is reduced in the brain which causes a hyper-reactive circuit.
Brain scans taken before, during and after the treatment showed that the brain re-worked the abnormal circuits and patients showed a 27 percent improvement in symptoms.
They found that the gene therapy had no adverse side effects and reduced the symptoms of Parkinson's disease with benefits lasting for up to 4 years.
The study found that though the gene therapy could be used to reduce symptoms it did not alter the underlying disease process.
The study was conducted by Dr. Andrew Feigin, director of Neuroscience Experimental Therapeutics at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in collaboration with Parkinson's scientists at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan.